A Model Scholar….

A Model Scholar…. April 12, 2008

I am currently on holiday in America visiting my parents.  While in my hometown, I like to visit with some of the professors at the local seminary (Ashland Theological Seminary).  This week I had the honor of having breakfast with NT scholar David deSilva.  He just finished a year in Germany on the prestigious Alexander von Humboldt fellowship (working on a book on rhetoric).  Whenever I am doing research which corresponds to any of his areas of expertise (and there are several), I consult his work first.  May I recommend some of his works to you?

1. An Introduction to the New Testament: Contexts, Methods
& Ministry Formation (InterVarsity, 2004) – This evangelical introductory textbook, though quite long and bulky, is outstanding.  It has, in my opinion, the right mixture of historical, sociological, literary, rhetorical, and theological elements.  It is written at a relatively basic level so it is accessible to the novice in biblical studies.  If/When I teach a NT survey course, I will not hesitate to use this book.  When I taught a course on Paul and his letters, I had my students read selected portions of this book.

2. Introducing the Apocrypha (Baker Academic, 2000).  As software programs such as Bibleworks become more popular among seminarians, students are able, more and more, to search and engage in relevant texts for NT/OT studies.  But, few students really understand the Apocrypha in terms of these texts history, transmission, provenance, and literary and theological characteristics.  deSilva is able to give a brief, but informative precis of these documents. 

3. Honor, Patronage, Kinship & Purity (IVP, 2000).  It is becoming quite common for social-scientific models and tools to be integrated into discussions about the NT culture and social structures.  However, where does one begin to learn about these models, theories, studies, etc…?  deSilva offers a sort of ‘social-structure of NT world for dummies’ kind of book that excels at showing the relevance and value of this interpretive approach and perspective.  My only reservation is that this book (and others like it) tend to draw examples almost exclusively from Greco-Roman literature and little from the OT/Pseudepigrapha/DSS/Philo/Apocrypha – thought deSilva does better than most.  For instance, in terms of honor/shame, why do we always turn to quotes from Homer to prove it was important to Biblical writers and their original readers?  There are also good examples in Wisdom of Solomon or Philo.  In any case, if you teach NT survey or a class on biblical interpretation, this would also make a good textbook.  ALso check out his The Hope of Glory: Honor Discourse and New Testament

Interpretation (Liturgical Press, 1999).

4. Perseverance in Gratitude: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on the Epistle “To the Hebrews”  (Eerdmans, 2001).  I have not read this cover-to-cover, but the portions I have interacted with were very rewarding.  There are few good scholars in Hebrews, but deSilva ranks in the top few.  If I am correct, he also did his PhD research on Hebrews under Luke TImothy Johnson.

I have read several of his articles and he has a clear and delightful writing-style that eschews technical jargon.  He also frequently has in mind topics that seem truly significant to the church in our time. 


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